When Your Baby Is 6 Months Old

Your Baby At 6 Months

This month you'll see an acceleration in your baby's development. It's an exciting time for all the family as she starts to sit unsupported, respond to her own name and start eating solid foods in earnest.

This month your baby may:

• Roll over from front to back and vice versa. You can encourage rolling from back to front by teasing your baby with her favourite toy, bringing it from above her head to one side or the other. With luck, she'll turn and roll to grab at it. Don't tease for too long, though, or she'll become frustrated. If she doesn't roll, hand her the toy to explore.

• Propel herself along on her front by kicking her legs: this is a preliminary to crawling, although she's probably a few months off this stage, if she doesn't bypass it altogether. Again, you can drag one of her toys along in front of her when she's on her tummy to encourage her to try and get mobile.

• Pass objects between her hands. Offer her different textured things to play with: soft toys, sets of keys, a lightweight wooden spoon and a baby safety mirror may all fascinate her enough to explore them with both hands. Don't leave her unsupervised or give her anything breakable to play with, though.

• Enjoy sitting in a highchair. Now's the time to try and interest her in first solids. Start with veg purees thickened with a little baby rice. You can introduce fruit purees a few weeks later, once she's got used to the taste of vegetables.You can also offer her bread fingers, soft pasta shapes, cucumber sticks and pieces of cheese. Again, make sure you supervise her when she is eating as she could choke on small pieces of food. (See more in our baby weaning section below.)

• Release and drop objects. It can be a frustrating time for you, as your baby will delight on dropping things on the floor for you to retrieve for her! Try to be patient, though: it's a time of exploration and experimentation for your baby, and she's learning about cause and effect as well as developing her hand skills.

• Interpret your facial expressions and varying tones of voice: she'll begin to understand when you're pleased, amused, frustrated or cross, and will respond accordingly. She'll laugh along with you; try to please you more when you encourage her; show anxiety if you're displeased and perhaps cry if you sound angry.

• Begin to understand that she's a separate entity from you and everyone else. She might want to reaffirm this by pinching or squeezing your face, pulling your hair or pushing herself away from you when you cuddle her. She'll also cuddle you back, though, which is a lovely development.

Entertaining your six-month-old baby:

Your baby will enjoy all sorts of amusements from this month. Here are some of the games babies of this age take delight in:

• Peek-a-boo: the sight of you disappearing behind an object (a cushion, his board book etc) then popping out again will probably provoke peals of laughter from your baby, who will want you to repeat the action again and again.

You can do the same with your baby, by showing her own reflection in a mirror, then covering the mirror with a cloth and asking 'Where's [your baby's name]?'. Whip the cloth away and she'll be delighted to see her own reflection again. Eventually she'll go to grab the cloth herself when you ask the question.

All this helps to develop the idea of 'object permanence' - a phrase used by psychologists to describe the concept that just because something (or someone) is hidden, doesn't mean it's gone for good.

It's an important stage in your baby's cognitive development and one he'll find reassuring, especially as you begin to leave him in a room alone for short periods while you answer the phone or go to fetch something for him.

• Clapping games: his hand-eye coordination is coming on fast, and soon he'll be able to bring both hands together and clap. Meanwhile, clap along to the rhythm of songs you sing him; give him a little round of applause when he tries something new; clap a simple pattern, then repeat it over and over.

You could count along as well: 'One, two, one-two-three'. Your baby won't understand the significance of the words at first, but will enjoy repeating patterns of sounds of all sorts.

• Sing 'Heads, shoulders, knees and toes' while you touch these parts on your own body, then repeat the song touching your baby. Repeat often and in a couple of months' time he'll spontaneously join in with the actions.

• Teach your baby parts of his face: touch his nose and say 'nose'; do the same with his eyes, lips and chin. He's taking in all this information long before he can talk, and will soon surprise you by touching his nose when you simply say the word.

• Nesting cups and building bricks will encourage your baby to stack, improving his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Express your surprise and pleasure if he managed to stack one or two objects, and laugh if the tower falls down. Either way, your baby will gain lots of enjoyment from the challenge.

• Play with toy phones: give your baby one handset and talk into your own. Repeat his name often as you talk and make yourself different familiar characters: his granddad; his childcarer; his favourite TV character.

Soon he'll grasp the concept of conversation and he'll babble back into his handset. Make sure you leave gaps in your chat for him to respond to you.

First foods for your baby:

Weaning your baby doesn't have to be all about plain baby rice - and some of you may have already introduced your baby to this rather bland first food in any case.

Government advice is to avoid any solids until your baby is at least 17 weeks old, and preferably to wait until she reaches six months.

If you have waited until now - or even if you've already started weaning - your baby will be ready for quite a variety of tastes and textures.

The main thing is to introduce everything gradually and allow her to get used to a few foods at a time.

Start with very small tasters, offered mid-way during a breast or bottle feed when she's not starving hungry, but not satiated either.

Offer the foods on the tip of your finger or a baby weaning spoon, and start off with just a few spoonfuls at first, then continue with her milk feed.

Preparing foods from scratch is your best bet at first, and it doesn't have to be a chore. Try pureeing some cooked vegetables without adding any salt, stock or other seasoning, as your baby's kidneys aren't mature enough to process these.

You can mix in a little breast or formula to make the taste more familiar and the texture creamier.

Make up a batch and freeze it in ice-cube trays: one defrosted cube will be just the right amount for a taster portion.

Ideas for foods to offer your baby include:

• Combinations of different cooked vegetable purees (butternut squash and sweet potato; carrot and potato; potato and celeriac; carrot and swede - and you can use your imagination to think up more).

• Once she's used to the taste of vegetables, and to prevent her from developing too sweet a tooth straight off, start offering cooked, pureed fruits (apple and pear; banana and pear; apple and banana - no need to cook the banana).

• When she's got the hang of purees, hand her some finger foods to try: pieces of bread; sticks of carrot and cucumber; a little cooked pasta; a little cooked rice, creamed with breast or formula milk; a rice cake).

• Moving on, you can offer your baby meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein, as well as milk and dairy products.

• If you choose not to give your baby meat or fish, they'll need two servings a day of non-meat protein-rich foods, like pulses (dhal, split peas, houmous), tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP) or eggs (but limit eggs to one a day and make sure they're thoroughly cooked).

• It can be handy to keep a few jars or pouches of ready-prepared baby foods in the house. Check the use-by dates and throw away anything that's gone out of date.

Foods to avoid:

• Avoid giving your baby any foods with additives, preservatives, added salt or sugar or colourings. Don't feed your baby fast foods or salted snacks like crisps, cheese puffs, nuggets or French fries.

• Don't give your baby nuts: they may be allergic or they may choke. Most nuts are also salted.

• Avoid honey until your baby is a year old because of the risk of botulism (food poisoning).

• Don't offer shark, swordfish or marlin, as they may contain levels of mercury your baby's system won't be able to cope with.

• Don't give raw shellfish because of the risk of food poisoning.

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